Volume 4, Issue 1 – February 2020

In This Issue:

Director's Note

Partner Spotlight: Univision

State Profile: New Mexico

Counselor Corner

Recommended Reading


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Save the Dates

Webinar: Timeline to College Readiness – Steps Students in Grades 10-12 Must Take Before Entering College
February 19, 2020
4:00 p.m. ET
Registration coming soon

Webinar: Hosting a College Signing Day Event
March 17, 2020
2:00 p.m. ET
Registration coming soon

ACAC State Coordinators Only: ACAC 2020 National Convening
May 6 & 7, 2020
Washington, D.C.

#FormYourFuture FAFSA Tracker

The Tracker is updated with completion data regularly. 

How’s your state doing?

myOptions Resources for Your Students

Toolkit Tips:

It’s 2020 and it’s time to transition to planning for a new campaign year. State coordinators are encouraged to:

  1. Review your state’s campaign steering committee members and determine if additional representatives need to be included.
  2. Host planning meetings with steering committee.
  3. Prepare for host site registration launch in the spring.
  4. Issue a certificate of participation to 2019 host sites.
  5. Issue a press release of state campaign success
  6. Celebrate students on social media when they are #accepted to college.
  7. Share data results!

Proud partner of:

Director's Note

January 14 marked one year since the American College Application Campaign joined ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning, and it has our team reflecting on the past 12 months. ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning had been a long-standing partner of ACAC so the transition allowed us to align our efforts to close the gaps in equity, opportunity, and achievement for underserved learners. It has also amplified our voice about the importance of every student having the opportunity to apply to college.

Jim Larimore, chief officer of ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning said in an Oct. 16 blog, “For the American dream of opportunity to be realized, we need to ensure that all students have the resources and support that they need in order to develop their talents and pursue their ambitions.” Though the college application process is one step in the college-going journey, it’s a critical step where all students must be supported.

Being in the ACT family increased our reach to directly connect with high school and district staff to share learning opportunities and resources for the college application process. We launched a webinar series geared for high school counselors and college advisers to help strengthen college-going activities and events. Each webinar drew anywhere from 300 - 500 participants. In the coming year we are also looking to host webinars around how to engage younger grades in college application campaigns and other college-going activities.

Our bi-monthly newsletter also saw an increase in subscribers jumping from approximately 250 to more than 3,000! The ACAC newsletter provides timely campaign tips, quick links to national resources, featured articles about ACAC state campaign efforts and national partners, and national campaign updates. New to the newsletter, you will find a “Counselor Corner” article dedicated to sharing best practices for helping students navigate the college-going journey at every grade level.
Joining ACT has made us stronger in our fight for a more just and equitable future for all underserved learners. Together, we are changing the narrative for students facing complex challenges. State campaigns work with host site coordinators to develop events that ensure all students have the opportunity to apply to college and are applying to a best match and fit. All state campaigns have concluded, and results are rolling in. Based on data submitted to date, we anticipate exceeding our reach of 7,200 high schools in 2018.

This year is already off to a strong start with ACAC recently hosting a Twitter chat with ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning and NAF on January 23, where we discussed how mentors can encourage and support students from underserved populations. If you missed it, you can read a recap of the chat here.

Caperton Head Shot.jpeg

We are excited to bring the state campaign coordinators together in May for our annual ACAC National Convening to discuss lessons learned from our 2019 campaign efforts and we look forward to reaching even more students in 2020. Thank you for joining us in this journey to supporting students as they navigate the path to college.

Melissa Caperton

Partner Spotlight: Univision and ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning

Spanish-Language Resources for Families Now Available

Did you know ACT has resources for your college-going students and their families who speak Spanish? These Spanish-language college-planning resources are now available on the ACT website, developed with and sponsored by ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning, in partnership with Univision.
The site includes dozens of helpful tools to help students and families prepare for the future, including:

  • eight free eBooks on college and career planning topics;
  • a full ACT practice test;
  • information on ACT test accommodations for bilingual students;
  • information about the ACT test fee waiver program;
  • and much more!

State Profile: New Mexico

The Power of Relationships

New Mexico joined the American College Application Campaign in 2013 and has worked hard focusing on alignment of its college application and FAFSA completion efforts and increasing resources to reach more students, families and schools.

“It’s all about relationships and helping those in your community and your state understand it’s everyone’s business to build a college-going culture,” said Jennifer Gomez-Chavez, Ed.D., New Mexico state campaign coordinator and special assistant to the Associate Vice Chancellor, Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. Gomez-Chavez also serves as the ENLACE New Mexico Central Regional Director and the Executive Director of the Unidos Project.

To strengthen statewide partnerships and relationships, the Unidos Project, ENLACE New Mexico, Albuquerque Public Schools, and the New Mexico Educational Assistance Foundation joined forces to established College Connect New Mexico in 2015. Together, these organizations brought 30 community partners including financial aid, college admissions, business leaders, and K-12 leaders. Since its inception, the program has hosted 24 FAFSA and College Application events annually statewide with more than 1,000 high school seniors. Each College Connect New Mexico partner brings a unique perspective on the barriers underserved learners in New Mexico face and knowledge in how to address those barriers. This alignment has allowed the campaign to identify areas of need and opportunity and determine which partners may best be poised to support specific campaign goals.

Most recently, the New Mexico Educational Assistance Foundation filled a regional training gap to reach more schools across the state. This has ensured that more counselors and community members received in-person support and are familiar with how to participate in the campaign. Since financial aid is often the foundation that encourages students and families to apply to college, the regional application campaign trainings were aligned with FAFSA efforts.

“We remind our community leaders that by investing in students, local and state economies will be positively impacted,” said Gomez-Chavez. “It’s also important to break down the college-going process and help those partners understand specific campaign needs and their role to reach realistic goals.”

Soon, College Connect New Mexico will gather its partners to review the 2019 campaign to establish goals for the 2020 campaign season. ACAC encourages other state campaigns and local efforts to identify and gather partners to determine needs and opportunities for improving your 2020 college application campaign efforts. State campaigns should consider goals to reach more communities and to improve available resources, while local efforts should evaluate how current efforts are reaching the most vulnerable students.

To learn more about New Mexico’s application campaign, visit https://equityinlearning.act.org/acac/states/new-mexico/. For ACAC resources, visit https://equityinlearning.act.org/acac/resources/.

New Mexico Lt.
 Governor Howie Morales joins Collect Connect New Mexico members at a statewide press conference to announce the kick-off of New Mexico’s college application and FAFSA campaigns.
New Mexico Lt. Governor Howie Morales joins Collect Connect New Mexico members at a statewide press conference to announce the kick-off of New Mexico’s college application and FAFSA campaigns.

Counselor Corner

Best Practices to Help Students Build A Balanced College List

Author: Bryan Contreras, vice president, K12 & education partnerships, myOptions

With the first semester of the school year behind us, now is the time to help students – ideally by spring of 11th grade - shape their college lists. As school counselors and college counselors, part of your core responsibility to students and families is to help develop their ability to form educated decisions about where they will apply to college, which ultimately will lead to a stronger “match” or “fit”. There are several factors that students should consider as they build their college list, and these same factors will be used when making a final decision on where they will enroll . . . so getting an early start on building a smart college list will help your team in the long run as you support students towards the end of their high school career.

Students who spend time working on these lists early and revising them using the recommended factors below will ultimately enroll in a stronger match college, which lead to higher persistence and completion rates.

The life-cycle for this process looks like this:

Remember that this is a process and is developmental in nature, so this might take some students months and even up to a full year!

Why is starting early on building a smart college list important?
For high school students, teaching them the skill of and coaching them through looking at their academic profile, or how to “know their numbers” helps them with goal setting in this process. It also will help the student better understand the range of options that are available to them. We often say: “likely, “target,” “reach,” and “far reach.” This is based on the college’s admissibility rates and the individual student’s academic profile. A reach school for one student may be a target school for another student. It is important to review each student’s list with more than one factor. Below is guidance on how to counsel with students as they build their college lists.

What factors should be considered in helping students balance their college lists?
Each student has their own story and a unique set of circumstances that surround them, so this will be different from student to student. However, there are some core areas to cover with students as they add colleges to their lists. The four factors most often used are: personal, academic, institutional, and affordability. All of these will work together to inform the college list.

  • What are the student’s personal and professional goals?
  • What is the student’s preferred environment?
  • Is there a particular part of the city, state, or country that will benefit the student?
  • Are there critical individual/ family circumstances and/or personal commitments?
  • What is the student’s class rank and GPA?
  • What is the “strength” of course load as compared to your school’s overall course offerings?
  • What is the graduation or completion of the college?
  • Do they offer the programs or majors being considered?
  • Is it a private or public (comprehensive or research?)?
  • What is the culture and structure of instruction, in class and out of class?
  • What level of supports are offered to first time or first-generation college-going students?
  • What is the availability of student financial aid: level of need vs. merit-based aid?
  • What is expected student debt burden vs earning potential for this college?

What resources are available to help students and families finalize their college lists?
Students can visit www.myoptions.org to create their free college planning account!  We recommend students search our advice section for “Terms to Know As You Create Your College List.” Also, don’t forget ACAC provides a College Research Worksheet to help students research and identify colleges that are a good match and fit.

Recommended Reading

Journal of College Access Now Available

Author: Dr. Laura Owen, director, Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success at American University

The Journal of College Access (JCA) focuses on the current trends, research, practices, and development of programs, policies, and activities related to the access of and success in postsecondary education. Issues of college aspiration, qualification, application, enrollment, and persistence are the primary emphases. JCA is affiliated with the Michigan College Access Network and the Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success at American University. The recently published volume (5) is the largest issue to date and features four scholarly works, four book reviews, a report critique and a guest perspective.


Book Reviews


JCA welcomes submissions from a wide community of practitioners including, but not limited to college and university faculty, graduate students, administrators, college access professionals, and others with an interest in the college access movement. Please reach out to any of the editors with any questions.

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